Preet Kaur Gill MP writes for the co-op party during Fairtrade Fortnight.

I’ve seen the difference Fairtrade can make – but that progress is under threat

"Fairtrade Fortnight is well underway, and once again provides us with a vital opportunity to champion the importance of Fairtrade and the impact this movement can have. It is also an opportunity to reconfirm a commitment to a world with just and Fairtrade where workers and countries are not exploited.

Lots of people around the UK buy Fairtrade and it is worth more than £1.6 billion showing that it is clearly not just a niche movement.
The Co-operative Group, for instance, have supported the Fairtrade movement for over 20 years, and became the first UK retailer to use only Fairtrade cocoa in its products.

By ensuring farmers and producers at the start of the supply chain are paid a fairer price for their work, Fairtrade sustainably changes the way trade works in the long term and makes sure these people in developing countries have a fairer deal with better working conditions.

That’s why the co-operative movement has a long history of championing the benefits of Fairtrade, that as a Labour and Co-operative MP I am proud to be a part of.

This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight carries on where last year’s left off, continuing the ‘She Deserves’ campaign that promotes the positive impact of Fairtrade on the women behind chocolate production, and calls for a living income for these farmers.

In my role as Shadow Minister for International Development, I’ve seen what a difference Fairtrade can make to some of the world’s poorest people. When we are thinking about trade, these are the people we should be ensuring it protects and works for rather than wilting to corporate interests.

The Government are currently in the process of negotiating our future free trade agreements.

Instead of trade deals that require deregulation or weaken the state, we could take this opportunity to ensure all future trade deals act as positive incentives to tackle entrenched poverty and foster equality.

The Fairtrade movement shows us that trade can have a positive impact for the world’s poorest if it is done right. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look likely.
We know that the Secretary of State has had no meetings over the last year with any organisations focusing on trade justice and her department has not explicitly committed itself to ensuring trade deals it negotiates will defend and support social and environmental protections.

So what about Parliamentary oversight or public scrutiny?

Compared to the options we had as an EU member state, the UK’s options for genuine parliamentary scrutiny are limited and weak. Our Members of the European Parliament had access to the negotiating texts, were able to raise concerns and had the right to veto agreements. Members of the UK Parliament are not guaranteed any of those things.

I have asked a series of questions to ministers about this but so far, the Government has been unwilling to firmly commit to ensuring adequate in-depth, meaningful parliamentary and public scrutiny.

Meanwhile the Department for International Development (DFID), which has an express aim of reducing poverty, is under continued threat of merger or closure when it should instead be playing a leading role in ensuring any future trade deals do not impact negatively on development.

Fairtrade Fortnight should be a time to celebrate the success of just trade – but without these commitments, the Government’s future trade agreements threaten to open countries up to more exploitation." 

You can read Preet's original article on the Co-op Party's website here: www.party.coop/2020/03/04/ive-seen-the-difference-fairtrade-can-make-but-that-progress-is-under-threat/